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Fueling Success: Practical Strategies for Healthy Eating at College


Picture this: you leave for college and for the first time feel free as a bird to stay up late and eat as many cookies before dinner as your heart desires. But one semester in, you notice that your clothes are starting to fit tighter, you feel sluggish and you’re having a hard time staying focused in class. This narrative is all too familiar, but no worries. Read on for a few easy strategies to incorporate and before you know it, you will be navigating healthy eating on campus like a pro.

Tip #1: Make a healthy choice a convenient choice. Stocking your room with healthy snacks is key to getting in a few healthy choices on those days when you are running to class. Fueling during the day with these convenient grab-and-go options will not only help you to stay focused, but it will help you to make better choices in the dining hall because you won't be famished when you finally get there. If you are keeping food in your room, remember to keep opened items in a resealable plastic bag or plastic bin to prevent dorm room pests. Here are some quick ideas:

  • Fresh fruit from the dining hall like apples, bananas, clementines

  • Whole grain crackers & brown rice cakes

  • Nut or seed butter: Either a jar or the portable individual packets

  • Popcorn

  • Trail mixes and lower sugar granola

  • Your favorite protein bar (like an Rx Bar) or protein drink (like Orgain)*

  • Mini-fridge- must have combos

  • Lightly sweetened yogurt + fruit

  • Chopped veggies from the salad bar + hummus

  • Salsa + carrot chips + tortilla chips

  • Cheese stick + crackers

With these simple items on hand it's easy to grab q quick bite before class with a protein bar or drink + fruit + a cheese stick, or to take a portable snack to hold you over between classes (2 clementines + a small container of trail mix)

Tip # 2: Navigating the Dining Hall:

Follow the Plate Method for an easy-to-remember visual of how to fit in your favorites, and still ensure a nutrient-dense meal:

  1. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables - this helps you meet your fiber and micronutrient needs, while keeping you full on fewer calories. Most dining halls have abundant salad bar selections, so take advantage of this to meet your fruit and vegetable needs.

  2. Make one quarter of your plate lean protein - this can come from grilled/baked meat, poultry, fish, eggs, Greek yogurt, or plant-based options like beans and tofu.

  3. Make the other quarter of your plate complex carbs like rice, pasta, oatmeal, bread (choose whole grain 50% of the time or when offered), or starchy vegetables such as corn, squash or potatoes.

Other helpful tips:

Keep Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Under Control: It’s easy to start adding them to your meals without thinking twice. The problem is that this can easily add 300-600 extra calories daily without the satisfaction that chewing food provides.

Be Choosy with Dessert: One of the biggest adjustments college students have to make is exposure to unlimited desserts. Pass on anything you don’t love. If you do indulge, make sure you have time to really enjoy it. If you’re in a hurry, it’s probably not the best time for dessert. Split it with friends. If you see something that you would love to try, ask friends if they want to share.

College can be a fun and exciting time in your life! Take the time to prioritize good nutrition so you can stay focused, meet your health and fitness goals, and keep your energy levels up along the way


Additional Helpful Resources On This Site: No Cook Snacks Recipe Pack

Sign up for a FREE trial of my meal plans, no no credit card required. The Simple Eats plan is filled with recipes with a short list of ingredients. Perfect if you are living in an off campus apartment. Search through the library of recipes to find your top 10 favs that you can cook with your eye's shut. Perfect for those weeks when your workload is high.

If you are interested in learning more, or scheduling a discovery call with Ellen Petrosino, MS, RDN click here.

*Disclaimer: Ellen Petrosino Consulting has no affiliation with any of the mentioned brands on this website.



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